PUK hands over 150 detainees to local government in Kirkuk

Joint press conference of Rakan al-Jabouri, Mohammed Othman, and Saad Harbiya, May 19, 2020. Photo: Karwan Salehi


The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) announced that it will “open a new page” with the local government in Kirkuk. The party in a new step transferred 150 “Arab detainees” to Kirkuk from Sulaimaniyah.

The decision to transfer the detainees was announced in a press conference, held by Rakan al-Jabouri, acting governor of Kirkuk, Saad Harbiya, commander of the Kirkuk’s Operations Command, and Mohammed Othman, head of PUK headquarter in Kirkuk.

Othman said, “after we were advised by the PUK coleaders to revise the cases of those detained by the PUK during the war of Daesh (or the Islamic State), we decided to hand the detainees over to the federal government.”

Othman added, “we will try to solve the problems that have emerged earlier and open a new page… we will hand over the detainees to Kirkuk’s Operations Command. From now on (May 19) they will be responsible for the cases.”

We will try to solve the problems that have emerged earlier and open a new page

The detainees have been arrested since the war of the Islamic State group (IS) in Kirkuk when the Kurdish parties ruled the city.

“Back then, only Kurdish Peshmerga forces were present in Kirkuk. Arresting those people was because of the absent of the Iraqi federal government. If the Iraqi government had been present the in this city, then the ministry of Peshmerga and the other security institutions would not have arrested them.”

The new leadership of the PUK took this step and addressed our request about the detainees in Sulaimaniyah

Meanwhile, Governor al-Jabouri said, “gladly, the new leadership of the PUK took this step and addressed our request about the detainees in Sulaimaniyah, under the rule of the PUK.”

150 detainees have been transferred to Kirkuk from Sulaimaniyah’s prisons in accordance to the agreement of Kirkuk local government and the PUK.


Kirkuk, a woman shows her child a picture of her father who has gone missing. July 20, 2019. Photo: Karwan Salehi 

“It is not freeing terrorists, but rather it is the return of people to Kirkuk, who are not charged with any crime. Also, the security committee will once more investigate into their cases,” al-Jabouri claimed, “the aim of the step is to return the detainees and reveling their fates.”

At the same time, Ismail Hadidi, an advisor to the Iraqi President Barham Salh, was present in the press conference, who is familiar with the agreement between the PUK and Kirkuk local administration.

Saad Harbiya, commander of the Kirkuk’s Operations Command, in the press conference, said that after the transfer of the detainees, they will investigate into the cases of detainees and will later submit the cases to the court house in Kirkuk. However, it is yet not determined when such investigations and trials will end.

On June 20, 2019, the United Arab Council submitted names of a thousand missing persons to al-Jabouri and accused the local Asaysh forces of the PUK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of arresting and detaining them.

The ministry of interior of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) subsequently issued a statement, in which it denied that they have detained any Arabs.

Al-Jabouri, in a response to the KRG’s statement, said that, “we got shocked when we saw the statement… that statement does not serve the cases, it is their responsibility to deal with this case legally, not to provoke the society.”

We got shocked when we saw the statement

KRG ministry of interior, in a statement, responded to the families of the missing people and the Arab parties, denying that detainees have been held the in the KRG jails “the doors of the prisons are open to International, local and human rights organizations to investigate the matter.”

However, after a week, PUK’s anti-terror forces in Sulaimaniyah returned “90 Arab prisoners” to Kirkuk who were arrested during the IS war. Earlier in February, 2019, 12 Arab detainees were transferred to Kirkuk by the PUK and the press was not informed about it. On March 11 the same year, the PUK forces with the presence of ethnic components of Kirkuk and Aras Shekh Jangi, an Iraqi President’s advisor handed over another 24 detainees to local government in Kirkuk.

In the press conference held on May 19, 2020, Kirkuk local authorities and head of PUK’s headquarter did not provide information about the reason for the transfer of the detainees at the this time.

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